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Best cars for empty-nesters

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The kids have left home. It used to be all about them before, but it’s all about your life now. Time to treat yourself to a new car that doesn’t have to carry as many bodies (not to mention worry about those crushed raisins stuck down the back of the seats). If this sounds like you, here are a few ideas for your next car.

The sports car: Porsche 718 Cayman

The 911 is the classic choice, but the 718 Cayman is, in some ways, a purer sports car, even though it's an ‘entry-level’ Porsche. 

A two-seat coupé, prices start at just under £43K, which is pretty reasonable for a luxury sports car. And, when you consider what you get for that money, it actually works out at reasonable value. 

Porsche 718 Cayman

The 718 Cayman is sheer joy to drive. You’ll want to get behind the wheel of it as often as you can – and it’s an easy car to drive, as well as being rewarding. It can also work as a daily runabout, especially as newer cars now have a more economical turbocharged 2.0-litre engine (older used cars have a 2.7- or 3.2-litre six-cylinder engines). There’s plenty of pace and power, too, so this will be a fun car to own.

The eco-sports car: BMW i8

An eco-sports car might sound a contradiction, but the BMW i8 is just that: a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid car that is fun to own and cleaner than its rivals. 

It’s a remarkable achievement. Making a car that looks as good as the i8 – and it does look great, all sleek and futuristic – and then making it great to drive. But then combining an engine as small as 1.5-litre with an electric motor, and still making it great fun to drive is some kind of magic.

BMW i8

The i8 also has all the latest technology and a comfortable, luxurious cabin, so the whole experience of travelling in it is really special.

In terms of its eco credentials, it can go 34 miles on purely electric power and CO2 emissions are just 42g/km. But at the same time, it has 0-62mph sprint time of just 4.4 seconds, so you can be fast and virtuous.

The fast estate car: Audi RS4

Not everyone wants a sports car when the kids leave home. The good news is that there are other cars that are fun to drive, but more practical. Like the Audi RS4.

This is essentially an A4 estate that has been souped-up to make it a real on-road beast. But it still has plenty of practical bootspace for luggage, golf clubs or, with the rear seats down, much larger items. With 450 horsepower being pumped out, the RS4 manages a blistering 4.1-second 0-62mph time. And this wolf in sheep’s clothing can still fit a flat-pack wardrobe in the back. 

All Audi cars have superb interiors and the RS4 no exception: in fact, it's even better than the average Audi, because this is a pretty exclusive car. The interior is swathed in leather and the sports seats are supportive and comfortable. Their infotainment technology is top notch too, so you can stay connected at all times.

Audi RS4 Avant

The trans-continental cruiser: Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet

With more time on your hands, kids-free drivers can take off on sophisticated road trips, perhaps to tour Europe in a cruising GT.

If this is the sort of thing you want to do, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Convertible is the perfect choice. Based on the S-Class limousine, this is an extremely luxurious open-top cruiser, which offers a relaxed, comfortable driving experience. 

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet

There’s some power on tap, too. All versions have 4.0-litre V8 engines under the bonnet, so they all take less than five seconds to reach 62mph from a standing start. The engines have that lovely throaty, thumping V8 sound when accelerating: but when cruising, the quiet burble is a lovely distant backing track to your drive.

The fabric roof offers really impressive sound insulation, to the extent that you could be in a regular hard-top car. The boot is a decent size for a convertible, too, with enough space for a few weekend bags.

The home from home: Volkswagen California

Of course, you might want to tour for a bit longer than a weekend – and do it often.

Volkswagen California

In which case, the Volkswagen California is the vehicle you need. As a VW, it harks back the classic old camper vans, but the California brings that bang up to date. It can sleep four, if required, thanks to the pop-up roof, but this is also great for a couple. You can sleep in the roof and leave the back of the California set up with the bench seating (which also converts to a bed) and table for leisurely breakfasts. And these can be prepared with the help of the kitchen area’s cool box, sink and burner rings.

It’s also easy to drive, with a couple of ‘captain’s chairs’ up front, dashboard-mounted gearstick, plenty of power from the 2.0-litre diesel engine and even four-wheel drive as an option.

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